Menu
Google nixes widespread malvertising attack

Google nixes widespread malvertising attack

Webmasters were flummoxed when their sites redirected to fraudulent websites hawking products

Webmasters figured out that malicious advertisements served by Google's AdSense were redirecting their users to bogus websites hawking spammy products.

Webmasters figured out that malicious advertisements served by Google's AdSense were redirecting their users to bogus websites hawking spammy products.

Google has stopped a widespread malicious advertising attack that bounced Web surfers to dodgy sites hawking weight loss and skin care products.

The malicious ads were delivered to website owners signed up with Google's AdSense program, wrote Denis Sinegubko, a senior malware researcher with Sucuri, a Delware-based security company. AdSense supplies relevant banner advertisements to websites.

When displayed, the malicious advertisements automatically redirected a person's browser to bogus websites. Those websites were designed to look like legitimate magazines such as Forbes and Good Housekeeping, featuring spammy offerings for anti-aging and brain-enhancing products, among others, Sinegubko wrote.

The attacks persisted since mid-December, spiking last Friday before Google apparently eliminated the malicious advertisements over the weekend, Sinegubko wrote. The problem generated a large number of questions and comments on Google's AdSense help forum.

The type of attack, known as malvertising, has been an ongoing problem for online advertising companies. Scammers will often submit non-malicious ads for approval then swap those out for malicious ones.

Google says that AdSense content is "reviewed by real people and clever machines" before appearing on websites. But the system doesn't appear to be foolproof.

In the AdSense support forum, Google moderators acknowledged the issue and said they were working to block the malicious ads.

Sinegubko wrote that the fake magazine websites were hosted on three domains, none of which show any content if viewed directly. The three domains were only just registered in mid-December, he wrote.

Some affected website owners figured out which advertisements were causing the problem. Banner advertisements that run on a person's site can be reviewed through an AdSense control panel called "Ad Review Center" and blocked if necessary.

Viewed through there, the malicious ads still redirected, giving webmasters a clue as to which ones were problematic.

Two campaigns were identified as malicious, although it was unclear if the accounts running them had possibly been hijacked by the scammers.

A broader issue is whether Google can control advertisements with third-party scripts that cause unauthorized redirects, Sinegubko wrote.

"If Google doesn't control scripts in their ads, AdSense may eventually turn into the largest malvertising platform despite of the still prevailing opinion that Google Ads are probably the most safe ad network out there," he wrote.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk


Follow Us

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags GoogleSucuri

Featured

Slideshows

The making of an MSSP: a blueprint for growth in NZ

The making of an MSSP: a blueprint for growth in NZ

Partners are actively building out security practices and services to match, yet remain challenged by a lack of guidance in the market. This exclusive Reseller News Roundtable - in association with Sophos - assessed the making of an MSSP, outlining the blueprint for growth and how partners can differentiate in New Zealand.

The making of an MSSP: a blueprint for growth in NZ
Reseller News Platinum Club celebrates leading partners in 2018

Reseller News Platinum Club celebrates leading partners in 2018

The leading players of the New Zealand channel came together to celebrate a year of achievement at the inaugural Reseller News Platinum Club lunch in Auckland. Following the Reseller News Innovation Awards, Platinum Club provides a platform to showcase the top performing partners and start-ups of the past 12 months, with more than ​​50 organisations in the spotlight.​​​

Reseller News Platinum Club celebrates leading partners in 2018
Meet the top performing HP partners in NZ

Meet the top performing HP partners in NZ

HP has honoured its leading partners in New Zealand during 2018, following 12 months of growth through the local channel. Unveiled during the fourth running of the ceremony in Auckland, the awards recognise and celebrate excellence, growth, consistency and engagement of standout Kiwi partners.

Meet the top performing HP partners in NZ
Show Comments